Sunday, July 29, 2007

The afternoon spent pottering about...

I spent the afternoon at the pottery studio. After my incredible building streak two weeks ago, I had 14 pieces to glaze today. No, make that 15. I found a piece on the shelf dating back to January of this year - dunno how I missed that!

Here they all are, laid out

The first step is to run over everything with some sandpaper to get rid of the rough edges, then you invert them and wax the bottoms so that no glaze adhears. This would make your piece stick to the kiln. Bad idea.

Choose and mix a glaze

...and dip

...and drain

...and dip

...and drain.

After repeating the process with several different glazes (many of them look the same in liquid form)all the pieces are ready for the second firing.

It will likely be another week before these pieces are fired and ready to come home. I had mentioned the possibility of 'auctioning' some pieces here at the Armchair, so stay tuned!

Friday, July 27, 2007

I'm 5'-11" short

Second post today... I'm simply rambling off stuff today, don't feel compelled to read it all...

I just now returned from yoga. I'd mentioned a few posts back about my instructor, A. who has really taken an interest in my cause. She has, in her selfless nature (I've noticed that all the yoga instructors where I go exhibit this attribute) invited me to come 30 minutes early to each of her classes (She's my Friday instructor... my Tuesday instructor Pat deserves his own blog post, coming shortly.) for some one-on-one instruction. I've explained to her some of my bodily limitations and structure. She ran away over the week only to return with a wealth of poses and stretches I can do to work me up to full posture in most of the poses.

Until this morning, I did not realize how much I was bending from my shoulders, not my hips. I now truly appreciate those who can fold themselves in half at the hips with ease and flexiibility! With the help of some foam blocks, I've achieved a seated position with my back properly straight and full length in my spine. What a different feeling! For the first time, today I sat with my back straight, folding forward at the hips not the shoulders.

I could not touch my toes.
Nor my ankles.
Nor my shins.
Nor my knees.

I folded forward about six inches before my hamstrings screamed at me. They, along with many other muscle groups in my body, are short.

Gawd, am I a wreck.

Today's lesson proved, if nothing else, self-awareness.
I was humbled beyond words.
Have you ever jumped into something with both feet, thinking "Wow, this is great! I'm going to do sooo well!!"?
Then, you discover your limits.
Discouraging, isn't it, when you discover where you really are in relation to where you thought you were.

This is going to be a long road. In my mind, I've mapped out a time line of about six years. I told someone the other day, "Yah, in six years I'll be able to kick anyone's butt!" Not that I'm out to pick fights, but I want to be strong - in an unassuming way.

The temptation is there to deflate and lose momentum, but I'm going to plug away. I've been spending the last eight or nine months addressing a whole host of problems with my body - problems that have exisited for decades. I must be realistic, and make peace with the fact that these are issues that won't be resolved overnight.


Gardening by God

I'm not one to use pesticides and herbicides in my yard. I'd rather put up with a few weeds than expose myself to toxic and cancer-causing crap. There's a fellow who lives a few doors down and across the street who is an avid environmentalist. He keeps the world's most beautiful yard, and does it without toxic chemicals of any kind. I stopped by to ask him what I could do about the dandelions that wasn't a toxic solution to the problem. He suggested I buy some horticultural vinegar, which is apparently twice or three times as strong as white table vinegar. You spray it on the leaves of the weeds in your lawn and it upsets the PH balance of the plant, eventually causing the plant to die. Apparently it doesn't affect the grass. He also suggested I buy corn meal and spread it over my lawn as you would fertilizer with a spreader. The corn meal will stop the spread seeds from the dandelions from germinating, AND is a healthy fertilizer for your lawn.

With this in the back of my mind, I received the following by email today. Quite funny.

Frank , you know all about gardens and nature. What in the world is going on down there on the planet? What happened to the dandelions, violets, thistle and stuff I started eons ago? I had a perfect no-maintenance garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil, withstand drought and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the long-lasting blossoms attracts butterflies, honey bees and flocks of songbirds. I expected to see a vast garden of colours by now. But, all I see are these green rectangles.

It's the tribes that settled there, Lord. The Suburbanites. They started calling your flowers "weeds" and went to great lengths to kill th em and replace them with grass.

Grass? But, it's so boring. It's not colourful. It doesn't attract butterflies, birds and bees; only grubs and sod worms. It's sensitive to temperatures. Do these Suburbanites really want all that grass growing there?

Apparently so, Lord. They go to great pains to grow it and keep it green. They begin each spring by fertilizing grass and poisoning any other plant that crops up in the lawn.

The spring rains and warm weather probably make grass grow really fast. That must make the Suburbanites happy.

Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it grows a little, they cut it --sometimes twice a week.

They cut it? Do they then bail it like hay?

Not exactly, Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags.

They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?

No, Sir, just the opposite. They pay to throw it away.

Now, let me get this straight. They fertilize grass so it will grow. And, when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it away?

Yes, Sir.

These Suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth and saves them a lot of work.

You aren't going to believe this, Lord. When the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it.

What nonsense. At least they kept some of the trees. That was a sheer stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. The trees grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer. In the autumn, they fall to the ground and form a
natural blanket to keep moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. It's a natural cycle of life.

You better sit down, Lord. The Suburbanites have drawn a new circle. As soon as the leaves fall, they rake them into great piles and pay to have them hauled away.

No. What do they do to protect the shrub and tree roots in the winter to keep the soil moist and loose?

After throwing away the leaves, they go out and buy something which they call mulch. They haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves.

And where do they get this mulch?

They cut down trees and grind them up to make the mulch.

Enough! I don't want to think about this anymore. St. Catherine, you're in charge of the arts. What movie have you scheduled for us tonight?

"Dumb and Dumber", Lord. It's a story about....

Never mind, I think I just heard the whole story from St. Francis.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

A tribute to my Uncle Ray

My Uncle Ray passed away this morning. He's my mom's cousin's husband. He's been in a hospice for a couple weeks, and his passing was not a surprise, except that I had stopped by home about an hour ago to call to see if it might be a good time for a visit. That's when I got my Mom's voice mail.

I was down to see him on Thursday last week. What I'm somewhat regretful of is that I had intended to see him on Sunday, but didn't organize things so that it would happen.

You hear time and time again: "Don't put it off, there may not be a tomorrow." And there may not be.

The one memory of Uncle Ray that sticks vividly in my mind is what he did for me when I was ten. My grandpa George, my Mom's dad, passed away that year. I was very close to him, and was an absolute wreck come the day of his funeral to the point I couldn't go to his service. Uncle Ray took it upon himself to take me for a drive instead. While we drove around small-town Lacombe, Alberta, he helped me understand the nature of life and death, and that even though we may not be here forever, our spirit lives on.

I didn't ever have any real bonding moments with Uncle Ray quite like that one, except for two glasses of scotch we'd shared - each on seperate occasions.

I will always remember him for his firm and upright character, uproarious sense of humour and gentle good nature.

This photo shows Uncle Ray at the head of the table. I borrowed it from a previous blog post in June when my cousin Fred and our family met in Bragg Creek for an outting.

Update on the Lakeview Fire fundraiser and a visit with a fellow blogger

Last Saturday, the North Glenmore Park Community held a fundraiser for the victims of the condo fire in Lakeview. The cause was spontanious combustion of some peat moss, of all things. Several were left homeless, and without sufficient coverage for their loss. NGP's efforts on Saturday raised over $5000.00. So far, they're up to $35,000.00 - their goal, $100,000.00.

Last Thursday I was up to my elbows in wet clay when my cell phone rang. It was Dana from NGP. He asked if we could come out on short notice to volunteer sound for the event. It made Saturday a LONG day for this Turtle - DJing until 2AM Saturday morning, on site for a 7:30 AM set up.

It was all worth it - here are some photos:

The Calgary Fire Department brought their #1 rig... well, their OLDEST rig!

What's the whole thing with cops and doughnuts, anyway? Firefighters, it appears, love their pancakes!

This fellow is local to the community and had played at the Stampede breakfast in late June. His name is Cort Delano. He's REALLY good, and is pushing to get himself on stage at the 2008 Calgary Folk Festival.

Me with Cort - a super, super friendly guy!

A little clowing around with Bumper the Clown.

The School of Irish Dance came out to perform...

...and the best part???

The Tim Horton Community Cruiser showed up!!


On Monday, I discovered that the Barley Mill in Eau Claire gives free beer samples!

Here we see a sample of Smithwicks Irish Ale, Salt and Pepper for size comparison (my artistic contribution), and a sample of Wild Rose Ale. The Wild Rose won out.

The occasion was a visit with fellow blogger and long-time classmate, Sharon. I sat behind Sharon in grade three, and no, I didn't ever dip her pony tail in an ink well! She was in town from Vancouver, or as she affectionately calls it, the "Left Coast" (if only for her political views, I'm sure!) It was great to catch up, and yes, Sharon, I was slouching just a tad... gawd did my shoulder hurt! I'm feeling much better today though - I saw the massage therapist yesterday. Having said that, Wild Rose makes for a pretty good organic pain killer.

Friday, July 20, 2007

It's been 18 days...

...since my last post.

My gosh, has it been that long??

I remember posting ages ago about how, when the most interesting things are happening in life there's no time to write about them, and the last *almost* three weeks have been no exception.

Stampede Week around here was nuts work wise, but it always is. Let's see if I can find a photo... hang tough...

Here's one from a live-music pancake breakfast event I did sound for. It's probably the most artistic shot I'll ever have in my portfolio, and I can't even take credit (entirely) for the shot.

This fellow is a resident in a community we did a breakfast for. The same community called me yesterday evening as I was up to my elbows in clay at the pottery studio. They are putting on another breakfast tomorrow morning to raise funds for the victims of a recent fire at a local condo complex. Many of the residents are seniors, and quite a number of them have been long-term and had not kept up their insurance coverage to meet the costs of today's labour market. We'll be out tomorrow morning drumming up dollars to help these folks out. I'll post about it later, I promise!

The corporate world is always a-buzz at Stampede time. Downtown at Esso Plaza we did this breakfast (being downtown by 5:00AM is tough on a guy who's used to walking in the door not long before that!)

You see that big sign? I used it to get this shot - even the staff photographer they'd hired didn't dare the liability, and as a result, I can say "woo hoo!!" I got the shot.

Pottery's been a blast... I blew off fourteen pieces on Monday - intending to pop in for a couple hours, stayed the day. I'll be snapping a few photos this week, and who knows, I may auction off a couple of the pieces on here... stay tuned!

Ashtanga yoga has proven to be... challenging. My instructor has taken a particular interest in my cause, and has invited me to come early to class for some one-on-one instruction. It seems she's impressed that someone with my... er... spinal mis-alignment is trying so diligently to correct the problem. Today she showed up with a tennis ball and a golf ball, and demonstrated how I should use these to stretch out the muscles in my feet in anticipation of increasing my ability to balance on one foot in "tree" or "eagle" pose. (It's an absolute disaster right now... 'nuff said!) She also brought in a couple foam forms for me to use when we're in seated positions to ensure my back remains straight from the hips up. All the time, she's been emphasizing "Do your practice at your own pace, and let your body tell you what you can and cannot do." This, along with what my Tuesday instructor said, "It's better to do 'a little', a lot rather than 'a lot", a little." have been encouraging words, and it's an absolute joy to work at something in an environment where there is no mandatory learning curve. This, I say, is good for my soul.

That's it for now... more later, and I promise to visit soon!

Maybe Sunday...

Namaste, bloggies!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Warehousing not homelessness solution

That was the title of an article in Fast Forward this week, but it wasn't that which caught my eye. The caption under the photo read,

"[...]says he'd like to see
Calgarians in expensive three-piece
suits and Italian shoes try
dumpster-living to survive."

Initially, this statement rubbed me the wrong way. I thought to myself,

"Are you suggesting that people in suits and fancy shoes don't work hard, or don't have an appreciation for what it takes to survive?"

Maybe it would do a lot of us middle-, upper-middle- and upper-class types some good to understand truly what it is like to live on the street, but I wonder if this suit-wearing, Italian-shoed Calgarian he speaks of perhaps worked very hard to get to where he is, and in doing so has found a way to 'survive' on his own terms?

About Me

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Calgary, Alberta, Canada
English student, Pottery enthusiast, Yoga novice and lover of all people. I make friends over a warm handshake and a beverage. I discover, every day, someone willing to help me along my path.